One season into his three-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings, the veteran quarterback is already being referred to as a bust by fans and other who cover the NFL.
Last offseason, the Minnesota Vikings looked at their roster and believed they were just a few more pieces away from building a team capable of making it to the Super Bowl.
So what did the Vikings do? They went out and added a free-agent quarterback in Kirk Cousins who they felt was an upgrade over what they had previously under center.
Something any team in the NFL would do if they had the resources to do so and something a number of franchises attempted to do during free agency last year.
But because Cousins signed an $84 million contract and didn’t lead Minnesota to Super Bowl glory in his first season with the franchise, it’s really easy (and lazy) for some to state that the quarterback is already a bust for the Vikings.
Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman and Yahoo Sports’ Frank Schwab have already decided to attach their name to articles claiming Cousins to be a bust. Both stating that Minnesota’s failure to make the playoffs this season was largely due to the performance of their quarterback.
Schwab claimed that the Vikings’ disappointing loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 17 was, “the type of game Minnesota paid Cousins for.” That’s a fun statement to put out there, but putting the fate of the team on their quarterback’s shoulders is not why the Vikings signed Cousins.
Minnesota is smart enough to know that he is not the type of quarterback like an Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or Russell Wilson who has the ability to win games almost entirely on their own. The Vikings brought a more accurate and stronger-armed Cousins in to play a similar role to Case Keenum in 2017, when the team’s fate wasn’t dependent on the play of their starting signal-caller.
At least this is what was assumed heading into the 2018 season until offensive coordinator John DeFilippo made the wrong decision to rely almost exclusively on Cousins’ play to get production on offense.
Instead of looking back at what Minnesota’s offense did successfully in 2017, DeFilippo tried to come in and completely change how the team has run things offensively during Mike Zimmer’s entire tenure as the Vikings’ head coach.
In doing so, Cousins’ biggest flaws were emphasized due to him throwing the ball over 40 times per game, something that has never translated into success during the quarterback’s career.
Prior to signing with Minnesota this season, Cousins had a 4-11-1 record during matchups in which he finished with 40 pass attempts or more. Yet for some reason in 2018, the Vikings quarterback had seven games with at least 40 pass attempts with DeFilippo calling the plays (which Minnesota came out as a winner in just one of these specific matchups).
This increase in passing wasn’t necessarily due the Vikings being down late in games either as they attempted more passes in the second quarter of games this season than they did in the fourth quarter.
In 2017, Pat Shurmur experienced success as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator because he called plays that were tailored to his players’ strengths. This past season, DeFilippo did the opposite and tried to force Minnesota’s offensive players into running plays that he felt would work, regardless of what their skill-sets were.
Looking back on it, this actually shouldn’t have been too surprising. DeFilippo only had one previous season as a play-caller for an NFL offense and his lack of experience was definitely glaring in 2018 with the Vikings.
But since more of the offense was put on Cousins’ shoulders, the quarterback has been the one taking the majority of the blame for the team’s disappointing season. When in reality, most Minnesota’s lack of success on offense in 2018 should be attributed to the guy who was in charge of calling the plays for the majority of the season.
If the Vikings are able to hire an offensive coordinator this offseason who can come in and actually figure out the correct way to utilize Cousins and the strengths he actually does possess and the quarterback still doesn’t succeed, then fine, call him a bust.
But until then, take a minute to look a little deeper and realize that Minnesota’s failures in 2018 don’t solely rest on the shoulders of their quarterback who finished his season with over 4,000 passing yards and 30 touchdowns.